The alarm went off at 6:50am. Around two hours after she last looked at her phone and hoped for two more hours of uninterrupted sleep.
She got up and started her morning routine, washing her face and brushing her teeth. She then caught her own reflection in the bathroom mirror.
Her eyes looked puffy and tired, she noticed. The kind of eyes that have been fighting to stay closed without success.
Almost instantly she felt pathetic. The grey cloud she thought she’d hidden from for months floated back into sight.
After sitting on the edge of her bed, phone in hand for 10 minutes that felt like hours, she dialled her boss’ number. No answer. So she pressed send on a script-like text message she’d sent a few times before.
“Hi, I’m sorry but I’m not feeling well enough to come into work today. Sorry for the inconvenience.’
She was not me.
Not the woman who has a loving family, supportive partner, just enough friends and a stable income.
She’s the one who, for no reason at all, gets sad sometimes. Calls herself disgusting. And weak. Some days, she can’t face the thought of putting on clothes and painting on a smile.
Well, that’s what it feels like.
I’ve always felt guilty about struggling with my mental health. Like it’s an indulgence I shouldn’t be afforded considering there’s nothing all that wrong with my life. So when I started a shiny new job, a real job, almost a year ago, I pushed the small, dark thoughts to the back of mind. Everything was great. They weren’t allowed to be there.
But they grew and grew, until I felt like I couldn’t face coming to work. So I’d call in sick here and there. And it always made me feel worse, not better.
Thankfully I was eventually able to be honest with my boss about my struggles. And to my relief, she understood. More than that, she was supportive.
So when those thoughts crept back up on me last week, after months of feeling like I had everything under control and the seas were finally that bit calmer, I was able to honestly say: "I'm sorry, but I'm not having a good day. I won't be coming into work today."
I still felt sh*t about it. I didn't have gastro, or the flu, or a 'genuine' illness keeping me from doing my job. I apologised again, but my boss replied with two words that helped me realise it's OK not to be OK.